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COVID-19: How we invented ventilators in 8 days – ATBU Lecturer

Faisal Sani Bala, an assistant lecturer at the Department of Mechatronics and Systems Engineering, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, is the project lead of the COVID-19 Innovation Solution at the School of Engineering which invented an Automatic Ventilator, Automatic Disinfection Chamber, Software apps for detection of COVID-19, as well as Aerosol boxes.

In this interview, he explains the motive behind the inventions, among other issues.

It started as a dream; I was actually restless for 53 days and then I thought of how to contribute my quota in fighting COVD-19. Seeing what other people are doing all over the world, I see no reason why Nigeria should be an exception. So, I came up with the idea, conceptualized and made some initial designs. By the time I finished those initial designs, we were already on strike, so I had to solicit direct access to the Vice-Chancellor and he granted me audience. I made presentations to him on the project and he gave me the go-ahead to start and also seed funds required to purchase materials needed. I mobilized like minds from immediate past students as well as my academic colleagues and technologist. As academics, we saw it as a sacrifice, just the way our colleagues are sacrificing around the world to combat the pandemic. Right now, our colleagues in places like the United State of America, United Kingdom and other developed countries are in their laboratories conducting research on the vaccine or a cure for COVID-19, as well as equipment required by medical personnel to combat the pandemic. As ASUU members, we were idle for some weeks because of the strike, but we felt we are humans first before being lecturers, so we had to talk with our union.

Read Also:COVID-19: Nigerian Defence Academy produces ventilators

It started as a dream; I was actually restless for 53 days and then I thought of how to contribute my quota in fighting COVD-19. Seeing what other people are doing all over the world, I see no reason why Nigeria should be an exception. So, I came up with the idea, conceptualized and made some initial designs. By the time I finished those initial designs, we were already on strike, so I had to solicit direct access to the Vice-Chancellor and he granted me audience. I made presentations to him on the project and he gave me the go-ahead to start and also seed funds required to purchase materials needed. I mobilized like minds from immediate past students as well as my academic colleagues and technologist. As academics, we saw it as a sacrifice, just the way our colleagues are sacrificing around the world to combat the pandemic. Right now, our colleagues in places like the United State of America, United Kingdom and other developed countries are in their laboratories conducting research on the vaccine or a cure for COVID-19, as well as equipment required by medical personnel to combat the pandemic. As ASUU members, we were idle for some weeks because of the strike, but we felt we are humans first before being lecturers, so we had to talk with our union.

ASUU was very understanding in this regard and has equally contributed to the fight against the pandemic after several awareness programmes. All affected members of the union were able to work without violating the rules which we swore to protect as members.

We had just eight days to come up these four solutions and we worked as a team with discipline and unfettered commitment. The vision we shared helped in making this work a reality within a short time. As you can see, our prototype looks like an industrial type.

If the essential materials are available, we can mobilize the human resources required and can produce at least 50 ventilators per week. We see the disinfection spraying machine as a necessity because infectious diseases like cholera and Lassa fever have maintained their momentum in the country, especially in ravaging rural dwellers. One of the major challenges is that people contract these diseases, even in hospitals when they come to visit or interact with patients. If we have disinfecting chambers at the entrance of the hospital, people will get disinfected while entering and coming out, so no disease will find its way into the hospital ward and those that originated or emanated from the hospital can be cut off at the chamber before the person leaves the hospital. Apart from hospitals, it can also be used in other places with high density of humans and it will help in improving the standard of hygiene.

There are two or three things; the first is that we are trying to work the talk, especially to prove that the universities are not fake or that we don’t have the capability to do what is required of us. What you are seeing here is a testimony that we can actually do more if given the opportunity. This exhibition is a plea to the government that our universities will like to play their role in building this nation. They’d also like to play their role in the fight against COVD-19 because all over the world, universities have gotten funding and grants meant for fighting COVID-19. These funds and grants are to be accessed immediately to start research on COVID-19. We are, therefore, calling on government to try and make such grants accessible to the universities. This innovation is not for commercial purposes, but an intervention to help fight the pandemic. It wasn’t a paid research, but because our Vice-Chancellor is committed to innovation, he made resources available for the necessary materials. The members are not on any wage or salary, that is the human aspect of it. However, we need the government, private sector and donor organizations that are willing to fight the COVID-19 to key in.

Ventilators are of various types. The ventilators we are coming up with are meant to address emergency and shortage, so the design method, design methodology and design philosophy is radically different from the ICU-based ventilators. And it is not just common with Nigeria; all over the world, the design now is to make ventilators that can be easily assembled, that can be made from simple components since we don’t have much time to do the long design circle, certification circle and other things. Now, the philosophy is to make something that can be used within the shortest time, but that doesn’t mean it’s done without the necessary medical experts.

We have started working with medical doctors. The Chief Medical Director of the ATBU School Clinic has attempted to use the device and he has given a good response, but that is not a certification, the issue of certification is something we will pursue later, but so far, it has elicited remarkable responses and several other medical doctors who have seen the innovation are impressed.

I, Faisal Sani Bala, am the team leader. We have Engineer Aliyu Sambo, Engineer Aminu Muhammed Wunti, Mr Moses Adebayo, Miss Jennifer Kelechukwu, Nasir Nasir, Aliyu Hassan, with support from Engineers Fatai and Muhammad Shehu Azare from the Technology Incubation Centre.

SOURCE; Daily Trust

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